Lack of sleep and early death

A new study has found that people who get little exercise and sleep poorly are 57% more likely to die prematurely compared to those who exercise a lot and sleep better as a result.

Bad sleepers also had a 67% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 45% higher chance of being diagnosed with cancer. The study was carried out by the University College London and the University of Sydney. (The Week 2 July 2021)

  • My comment: I go to the gym three times a week , use a walking machine at 4mph and at a 5% elevation and do it for 45 minutes three times a week And go out for more civilized wallks in between.  I still lay awake most of last night –  but then the England win over Denmark at football yesterday evening was rather exciting,


Quote for today

Damian Hirst reveals that his mum is happy with his shift from provocative artworks to cherry blossom oil paintings:

“When I was making animals in formaldehyde , she said, “Oh, there are enough horrors in the world.  Can’t you do paintings of flowers?”   And I think, my God, it’s taken me until I’m 55 before I can please her.”



Friendship declining in the US

Friendships are declining in America. According to a recent American Perspectives Survey, people reported having fewer close friends than in previous years, with roughly half of Americans citing three or fewer. Instead, they’re turning to parents and romantic partners for support.

“People have lost their fringe friends, or those friends they saw once in a while. So it’s unsurprising that surface-level friendships have decreased since we haven’t been out and about as much,” psychologist and friendship expert Dr. Marisa Franco says, citing social distancing measures and lockdowns.

Shasta Nelson, friendship expert and author of  “ Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong health and Happiness” adds that many people faced significant personal challenges during the pandemic, and as a result, became more selective in deciding which friends were worth confiding in. More than one in five survey respondents said the past 12 months have been “much more difficult for them than usual.”

“More people were willing to be vulnerable during the pandemic. They wanted to be accepted and wanted it to feel more meaningful to have deep conversations rather than surface-level ones,” she says.

Friendships have been on the decline for years thanks to increased geographic mobility and increased workplace demands, according to the survey. Americans are working longer hours and spending twice as much time with their children compared to previous generations.

“The reality is they’re just too busy and it’s hard to keep up with their non-essential relationships. And sadly, friendships tend to be the first relationships that people drop,” Franco says.

Nelson also blames the larger culture in America that sees “friendships as optional” in comparison to romantic or familial relationships.

“We live in a society where we feel friendship is a luxury for when we have extra time. And when we feel pressured for time due to work or our home lives, friendships are what we don’t feel we have permission to maintain,” she says.

“In contrast, the belief is that our parents and spouses will always be happy to hear from us, kind of like a safety net, even if we haven’t been good at reaching out.”(Washington Post)

My comment:  What these “friendship experts” leave out is individual disposition.  Are you extrovert or introvert?  To the extrovert the recent period of pandemic must have been dreadful; to the introvert a period of calm and and a chance to catch up on things undone, to exercise, and to reflect.  I should add that Epicurus was a great advocate of friendships ( plural) as essential.  But he sounds to me to have been a huge extrovert, enjoying the company of many friends and acquaintances.  To each his own.


Exports to EU hit by Brexit

Food and drink exports to the EU almost halved in the first three months of the year, the Food and Drink Federation reports.

The group’s data showed that EU sales dropped by 47% compared to the same period in 2020. Covid is likely to have had an impact but the trade body said the decline was largely due to changes in the UK’s trading relationships with the bloc. The government said it was “too early to draw any firm conclusions” on the long-term impact of Brexit.

My comment: There are no apparent changes to life in London ( at least), except for the empty stores and newcomers to the main shopping areas.  But these could be explained by covid, and it’s hard to distinguish cause and effect.  You still hear foreign voices among the crowds. House prices are still apparently going up, and if covid has encouraged people to move out of London then it doesn’t seem to be reflected in property prices.  But I suspect there is a lag effect and that the results of Brexit are going to be felt gradually, over the next few years.


Verdict on the current British government. (Part 1)

“Instead of a cabinet, there is a potentate. The traditional structures still exist, but as tributes to an obsolescent way of governing.” There are still secretaries of state, but they now have “little bearing on real power, which swirls in an unstable vortex of advisers and officials vying for proximity to Boris Johnson’s throne”. Behr continues that “having such a personality at the heart of government makes a nonsense of unwritten protocol” that governs British politics. “It was never rigorous. All manner of hypocrisies flourish when a self-selecting elite chooses the boundaries of legitimate behaviour. But there were boundaries. Johnsonism has none.” (Rafael Behr, The Guardian)

My comment:  Epicurus disdained politics, and one can see why.  There is little we can do about it, so I think we should concentrate on inter-personal kindness, consideration, politeness, honesty, and integrity, and do what we can to help for the poor, the sick and the under-served.


Abolition of slavery

On June 19th Americans celebrated Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the anniversary of June 19th, 1865, and the end of slavery in the United States. Many believe Juneteenth is a celebration of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, However, the document was actually signed in 1863. The
real cause for celebration came two years later in Galveston, Texas when Union General Gordon Granger’s troops  made it to the city and informed the population  that slavery had finally been abolished, releasing hundreds of thousands of Black Americans from bondage. 

We should reflect not only on how far we’ve come as a nation but also on the many challenges that Black Americans still face in this country; not the least of which is a massive racial wealth gap. We have watched this gap worsen for over fifty years, in large part owing to massive inequalities found within the U.S. tax code that continues to put Black Americans at an undeniable disadvantage.  (Patriotic Millionaires June 16, 2021)

My comment:  I think Epicurus would have said “ Amen” to this.

Smacking worsens behaviour?

Smacking children makes their behaviour worse, according to a new review of two decades of research. The study found that children subjected to physical punishment showed increased behavioural problems with no improvement in behaviour.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children are among the groups calling for an outright ban on physical punishment of children. ( The Week, 29 June 2021).

My comment:  The first time I was severely smacked is vivid in my memory.  My grandfather had a barrage balloon station on his farm.   My sister and I had climbed a ladder to get onto the top of the ballon  and were playing there when the air raid siren went off.  Enemy bombers on their way!  There was a delay in letting the balloon fly into the sky as Home Guard members had to climb up and remove two naughty kids who were having an exciting time running around on top of the balloon.

The first time I was smacked (well deserved!). We were repeatedly forbidden to go anywhere near the balloon.  Had roles been reversed and had I been my father ( on weekend leave) I would have smacked my son, too.  The smacking did me no harm at all. Even at 5 I knew I had been naughty and deserved it.

100,000 children have not appeared at school

More than one in eighty U.K. school pupils have failed to return to school following the lifting of coronavirus lockdowns, according to a new analysis of official U.K. data.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) found that 93,514 pupils were “severely absent” – absent more often than they were present – during the autumn school term. In a newly pubished report titled “Kids Can’t Catch Up If They Don’t Show Up”, the think tank reports that the total number of absent youngsters has risen by 54.7% year-on-year.

My comment:  I think, if I were a parent of a young child, I might keep the kids at home as well if I felt that the local educational authority had not taken adequate steps to keep children safe from covid, and other infections as well.  Companies appear to be desperate for workers – perhaps the missing workers are keeping their children at home for safety’s sake?

The scandal of college affordability

Public officials have taken the idea of affordable college from something everyone should have to a luxury item only for the super-rich and super lucky.  Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and chuck Schumer have spent months asking Joe Biden to use his authority to eliminate or reduce crushing student debt. Biden promised to do so.  But in the end he has refused, despite new Roosevelt Institute research showing that educational debt relief “would provide more benefits to those with fewer economic resources and could play a critical role in addressing the racial wealth gap and building the Black middle class”.

As student debt crushes the elderly and people of color, into this vacuum comes a rescue … for a lucky few. Public officials have taken the idea of affordable college from something the world’s wealthiest nation should be able to provide to everyone, and converted it into an expensive luxury item only for the super-rich and those lucky enough to win the lottery.


At first glance, the state initiatives could seem like pragmatism. With the federal government gridlocked and states unwilling to raise revenues to adequately fund universal access to affordable higher education, at least we can offer post-secondary education to a handful of the non-rich. And, hey, if it entices more people to get vaccinated, that’s an added bonus.

But at another level, this feels like something out of a dystopian sci-fi satire.

As other countries suffer mass casualties because vaccines are simply not available or affordable, America apparently has the opposite problem: we’re swimming in the much-coveted medical prophylactic against Covid, and yet we apparently must gamify the vaccine process in order to persuade our people to get free shots to protect themselves from the deadly virus.

Even worse, the big shiny enticing prize young people can win is not some sports car, speedboat, or even a visit to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. It is more affordable college – as if access to an education is not a basic right, but must be considered some overpriced, totally-out-of-reach, only-for-the-elite indulgence like a Caribbean vacation, or some other gaudy item on The Price Is Right.  (David Sirota, 17 June 2021)

My comment: When I was young the ( U.K.) government made it a priority to encourage further education . Except for accommodation my three years at university were paid for by the taxpayer.  So was subsequent business management education.  I don’t know whether the taxpayer got his moneys-worth in my case, but I sure did appreciate it .- and worked hard to justify it, too.  This current attitude to education is appalling!

Drink problem

Back in 2019 research revealed by The Guardian ( 5 July) showed that one in ten people in a hospital bed in the UK are alcohol-dependent,  and one in five inpatients are doing themselves harm by their drinking.

While it is estimated that heavy drinking costs the NHS £3.5bn a year, the numbers of people treated has been unclear. But a major review published in the journal Addiction has collated 124 previous studies involving 1.6 million hospital inpatients and shows that 20% use alcohol harmfully while 10% are dependent. More than 80 people die every day in the UK from alcohol abuse. Cuts to alcohol services in the NHS and the community have made the situation worse, it says.  (The Guardian 5 July 2019).  Below are some statistics:

  • The average American drinks 470 pints of beer in a year.
  • Thirty-seven percent of the American population abstain from drinking altogether.
  • 4,328 pensioners in Britain received care for drinking problems in 2018/2019.
  • 15.1 million adults in the US suffer from alcohol use disorder. That’s 6.2% of the total population.
  • A quarter of Americans try alcohol before they turn the age of 18.
  • Americans drank around 9.5 liters of alcohol in a year – the same as 31 glasses of wine.

It is no surprise that alcohol consumption has only increased over the years. When you compare the figures with the last decade, it’s easy to see that alcohol consumption has risen sharply in both countries.

My comment: Epicurus is, maybe, best known for his advocacy of moderation.  I would suggest that a glass of wine at dinner time is fine.  Much more than that becomes self-destructive.

Documentary claims English invented champagne

Champagne was developed in England long before it was popularised in France, a new documentary has claimed. The show, Sparkling: The Story of Champagne, reveals that a 1676 play called The Man of Mode includes “the first mention of sparkling champagne anywhere in the world”. The director claims he has “documentary proof to the British claim that the Brits were drinking sparkling champagne years before Dom Perignon, the ‘Father of champagne’”, developed his winemaking techniques in northeast France.

My take:  Wine has been imported from France, Spain and Portugal since medieval times.  Who knows how, where or when champagne was developed, but the likelihood is that Dom Perignon was just a first class marketer and that the actual history of champagne goes back centuries, un-advertised.

Killed by gunfire

Gun violence has become an epidemic in America.  Over 38,000 people are killed every year because of deadly weapons.  Over 38,000!  And a huge proportion of the population doesn’t appear to care.  Or maybe they really think that this what the Founders intended?

There is no reason why anybody needs a weapon of war.

My take:  No further comment needed.


Will there be a sea change in the wealth gap?

Americans are quitting jobs in record numbers.  Several retail workers among them recently spoke with The Washington Post, describing how the pandemic led to increased hours, pay cuts and understaffed stores, frequented by more disruptive customers. “We’re seeing a wider understanding that these were never good jobs and they were never livable jobs,”  said Rutgers University professor Rebecca Givan. (Washington Post 21 June 2021).

My comment: “Oh, well, I got away with it for years” (Anonymus CEO with seven figure salary). Maybe now company bosses like this will be forced to pay living wages, and a sense of fairness and equity start breaking through.  But I am not putting any money on it.